I’ve always thought the basis for Ethan’s coldness toward me was just that I’m curvy and physically repulsive and he’s a bigoted, garbage human—but it occurs to me, standing here, holding on to his bicep, that maybe that’s why he’s such an ass: Ethan resents that Ami has taken such a big part of his brother’s life, but can’t show that to her face without alienating Dane. So he takes it out on me instead.
The epiphany washes cool clarity through me.
“She’s really good for him,” I say now, hearing the protective strength to my voice.
I feel him turn to look down at me. “What?”
“Ami,” I clarify. “She’s really good for Dane. I realize you find me completely off-putting, but whatever your problem is with her, just know that, okay? She’s a good soul.”
Before Ethan can respond, the (free) wedding coordinator finally steps forward, waves to the (free) musicians, and the ceremony begins.
• • •
EVERYTHING I EXPECTED TO HAPPEN happens: Ami is gorgeous. Dane seems mostly sober and sincere. Rings are exchanged, vows are spoken, and there is an uncomfortably raunchy kiss at the end. That was definitely not church tongue, even if this isn’t a church. Mom cries, Dad pretends not to. And throughout the ceremony, while I hold Ami’s massive bouquet of (free) roses, Ethan looms like a silent cardboard cutout of himself, moving only when he has to duck a hand into his coat pocket to produce the rings.
He offers his arm to me again as we retreat down the aisle, and he’s even stiffer this time, like I’m covered in slime and he’s afraid it’s going to rub off on his suit. So I make a point of leaning into him and then giving him a mental bird-flip when we’re off the aisle, allowed to break contact to disperse in different directions.
We have ten minutes until we need to meet for wedding party photos, and I’m going to use that time to go remove wilted petals from the dinner table flower arrangements. This Skittle is going to cross some things off her list. Who cares what Ethan is going to do?
Apparently he’s going to follow me.
“What was all that about?” he says.
I look over my shoulder.
“What was what about?” I ask.
He nods toward the wedding aisle. “Back there. Just now.”
“Ah.” Turning, I give him a comforting smile. “I’m glad that when you’re confused, you feel comfortable asking for help. So: that was a wedding—an important, if not required, ceremony in our culture. Your brother and my—”
“Before the ceremony.” His dark brows are pulled down low, hands shoved deep into his trouser pockets. “When you said I find you off-putting? That I have a problem with Ami?”
I gape up at him. “Seriously?”
He looks around us, confused. “Yeah. Seriously.”
For a beat, I am speechless. The last thing I expected was for Ethan to need some sort of clarifying follow-up on our constant wave of snarky comments.
“You know.” I wave a vague hand. Under his focus, and away from the ceremony and the energy in the full room, I am suddenly less confident in my earlier theory. “I think you resent Ami for taking Dane away from you. But you can’t, like, take it out on her without him getting upset, so you’re a chronic dick to me.”
When he simply blinks at me, I barrel on: “You’ve never liked me—and we both know it goes way past the cheese curds, I mean you wouldn’t even eat my arroz con pollo on the Fourth of July, which is fine, your loss—but just so you know, she’s great for him.” I lean in, going for broke. “Great.”
Ethan lets out a single, incredulous laugh-breath and then smothers it with his hand.
“It’s just a theory,” I hedge.
“About why you clearly don’t like me.”
His brow creases. “Why I don’t like you?”
“Are you just going to repeat everything I say?” I produce my list from where I’d rolled it into my small bouquet and shake it at him. “Because if you’re done, I have things to do.”
I get another few seconds of bewildered silence before he seems to surmise what I probably could have told him ages ago: “Olive. You sound legitimately insane.”
• • •
MOM PUTS A FLUTE OF champagne in Ami’s hand, and it appears to be on someone else’s to-do list to keep it filled to the brim because I see her drinking, but I never see it empty. It means that the reception goes from what was arguably a perfectly scheduled, slightly rigid affair, to a true party. Noise levels go from polite to frat house. People swarm the seafood buffet like they’ve never seen solid food before. The dancing hasn’t even started yet, and Dane has already thrown his bow tie into a fountain and taken his shoes off. It’s a testament to Ami’s inebriation that she doesn’t even seem to care.
By the time the toasts roll around, getting even half of the room to quiet down seems like a monumental task. After gently tapping a fork against a glass a few times and accomplishing nothing by way of noise control, Ethan finally just launches into his toast, whether people are listening or not.
“I’m sure most of you will have to pee soon,” he begins, speaking into a giant fuzzy microphone, “so I’ll keep this short.” Eventually, the crowd settles, and he continues. “I don’t actually think Dane wants me to speak today, but considering I’m not only his older brother but also his only friend, here we are.”
Shocking myself, I let out a deafening cackle. Ethan pauses and glances over at me, wearing a surprised smile.
“I’m Ethan,” he continues, and when he picks up a remote near his plate, a slideshow of photos of Ethan and Dane as kids begins a slow scroll on a screen behind us. “Best brother, best son. I am thrilled we can share this day with not only so many friends and family, but also with alcohol. Seriously, have you looked at that bar? Someone keep an eye on Ami’s sister because too many glasses of champagne, and there’s no way that dress is staying on.” He smirks at me. “You remember the engagement party, Olivia? Well, if you don’t, I do.”
Natalia grips my wrist before I can reach for a knife.
Dane shouts out a drunk, “Dude!” and then laughs at this an obnoxious amount. Now I wish that the Killing Curse were a thing. (I didn’t actually take my dress off at the engagement party, by the way. I just used the hem to wipe my brow once or twice. It was a hot night, and tequila makes me sweaty.)
“If you look at some of these family photos,” Ethan says, gesturing behind him to where teenage Ethan and Dane are skiing, surfing, and generally looking like genetically gifted assholes, “you’ll see that I was the quintessential big brother. I went to camp first, drove first, lost my virginity first. Sorry, no photos of that.” He winks charmingly at the crowd and a flutter of giggles passes in a wave around the room. “But Dane found love first.” There is a roar of collective awwws from the guests. “I hope I’ll be lucky enough to find someone half as spectacular as Ami someday. Don’t let her go, Dane, because none of us has any idea what she’s thinking.” He reaches for his scotch, and nearly two hundred other arms join his in raising their glasses in a toast. “Congrats, you two. Let’s drink.”
He sits back down and glances at me. “Was that sufficiently on the cuff for you?”
“It was quasi-charming.” I glance over his shoulder. “It’s still light out. Your inner troll must be sleeping.”
“Come on,” he says, “you laughed.”
“Surprising both of us.”
“Well it’s your turn to show me up,” he says, motioning that I should stand. “It’s asking a lot, but try not to embarrass yourself.”
I reach for my phone, where my speech is saved, and try to hide the defensiveness in my voice when I say, “Shut up, Ethan,” before standing.
Good one, Olive.
He laughs as he leans in to take a bite of his chicken.
A smattering of applause carries across the banquet hall as I stand and face the guests.
“Hello, everyone,” I say, and the entire room startles when the microphone squawks shrilly. Pulling the mic farther away from my mouth, and with a shaky smile, I motion to my sister and new brother-in-law. “They did it!”
Everyone cheers as Dane and Ami come together for a sweet kiss. I watched them dance earlier to Ami’s favorite song, Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love,” and managed to ignore the pressure of Diego’s intense efforts to catch my eye and nonverbally commiserate about Ami’s famously terrible taste in music. I was genuinely lost in the perfection of the scene before me: my twin in her beautiful wedding dress, her hair softened by the hours and movement, her sweet, happy smile.
Tears prick at my eyes as I tap through to my Notes app and open my speech.
“For those of you who don’t know me, let me reassure you: no, you aren’t that drunk yet, I am the bride’s twin sister. My name is Olive, not Olivia,” I say, glancing pointedly down at Ethan. “Favorite sibling, favorite in-law. When Ami met Dane—” I pause when a message from Natalia pops up on my screen, obscuring my speech.
FYI your boobs look amazing up there.
From the audience, she gives me a thumbs-up, and I swipe her message away.
“—she spoke about him in a way I had never—”
What size bra are you wearing now?
Also from Natalia.
I dismiss it and quickly try to find my place again. Honestly, whose family texts them during a speech they are obviously reading from a phone? My family, that’s who.
I clear my throat. “—I had never heard before. There was something in her voice—”
Do you know if Dane’s cousin is single? Or could be . . . ;)
I give Diego a warning look and aggressively swipe back to my screen.
“—something in her voice that told me she knew this was different, that she felt different. And I—”